Caring in Christian Theology
The simplicity of the theology we operate within is overwhelming. One fact stands out vividly: God, father of us all, sinners, suffers along with his children. The names of his children are legion. No “brightest, favorites, and best” in the group. They are all his children, the only difference is where they choose to stand with Him.
God is constantly moving toward those from whom others are moving a way. Hardly a promising strategy to elevate earth’s children, within earthly success. A love so radical that it cuts through every condition of his children. A unmerited love that some choose to accept and others to reject. A love so bound to his kingdom that every power and principality would come under it dominion for better or worse-including politicians.
Caring is the glue of all Christian ministry, whether lay or clerical. Where there is no caring, there is no Christian love, or action. Care is God’s gift through Jesus Christ and the whole biblical tradition to be shared, not a virtue to be acquired. We love and care because we have first been loved and cared about by God the Father and because that truth has been passed on to us by human hands and hearts within the Christian Community headed by His Son, Christ.
1. Christian outreach
The helping outreach of the Christian community to individuals in distress such as those suffering from illness, poverty, or a personal crises, is expected by the world. This expectation emphasizes the primary importance of unspectacular and unpretentious Christian concern for the unique individual in his or her unique needs. In the following lessons I have tried to summarize much of what we know about training people on how to have a better “Quality of life,” and about the major challenges which people face today. These lessons have been prepared as a resource tool for Christian leaders and as a study guide for pastors.
It is humbling to realize, however, that in all of this, we study, and help others only because God has given us the capacities and desires to do so. This course goes forth, therefore, with thanks to God, with the prayer that it will bring honor to Jesus Christ, and with the hope that the Holy Spirit will use it to help many Christian leaders to care more effectively for the people around them.
2. Christian presence
Christians provide signs of their belief, love, and care to the world, through such identification with suffering.
The great moments and memories of ministry have to do with caring – caring for others, helping others learn to express caring and being cared about. Thomas Merton in the Seven Story Mountain reflect on this:
“It is a great pleasure for me to remember such good and kind people… i just remember their kindness and goodness to me and their peacefulness and their utter simplicity. They inspired real reverence, and I think, in a way, they were certainly saints. And they where saints in the most effective and telling way: sanctified by leading ordinary lives in a completely supernatural manner, sanctified by obscurity, by usual skills, by common tasks, by routine; but skills, tasks, routine which received a supernatural form from grace within, and from the habitual union of their souls with God in deep faith and charity.”
“Their farm, their family, and their Church were all that occupied these good souls; and their lives were full.”
Like everything else profound in life, caring has its ups and downs, its times of exhilaration and discouragement. Care is often hard work. But loving care is the name of it all. If that doesn’t turn you on, the rest of the theology will not touch you deeply.
The Christian Leader, regardless of his training, does not enjoy the privilege of electing whether or not he will train others on how to have a better “Quality of Life.” They inevitably will bring their challenges to him/her for their best guidance and wisest care. They cannot avoid this if they stay in the ministry. If everybody gives up, where will people go with their challenges of life? Jesus, who is the Christian’s example, spend much time talking to needy people in groups and in face-to-face contact. The Apostle Paul, who was very sensitive to the needs of hurting individuals, wrote that “we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. In the Bible helping people is not presented as an option. It is a requirement for every believer and especially for every Christian leader. At times, training (for a better “Quality of Life” may seem like a waste of time but it nevertheless must be an important, necessary, and biblically established part of any ministry.
As a way of helping people, to help individuals cope more effectively with the challenges of life, with inner conflict and with crippling emotions; to provide encouragement and guidance for those who are facing losses of disappointments; and to assist persons whose life patters are self-defeating and causing unhappiness the Christian Leader trains people how to acquire a better “Quality of Life”. In addition the Christian leader/trainer seeks to bring people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and has the ultimate goal of helping others to become first disciples of Christ and then leaders of others.
In reaching these aims, it is important for trainers to have an understanding of the challenges of living (how they arise and how they can be dealt with), and a familiarity with leadership/training skills, and have developed a personality which is “inherently Christlike” – that is, characterized by warmth, sensitivity, understanding, concern, and a willingness to confront people in an attitude of love. A psychologist named C. H. Patterson reached a similar conclusion after writing an in-depth book on contemporary theories of counseling:
To be most effective the therapist must be a real, human person … offering a genuine human relationship…. Much of what therapists do is superfluous or unrelated to their effectiveness; it is a relationship characterized not so much by what the techniques the therapist used as by what he does as by the way he does it.
Surely Jesus Christ is the best model we have of an effective “wonderful leader/trainer” whose personality, knowledge and skills enabled him effectively to assist those people who needed help. When one attempts the leadership/training of Jesus, there is always the tendency, unconscious or deliberate, to view Christ’s ministry in a way which reinforces our own views about how people are helped. The directive-confrontational trainer recognizes that Jesus was confrontational at times; the nondirective “client-centered” trainer finds support for this approach in other examples of Christ’s helping the needy. It is undoubtedly more accurate to state that Jesus used a variety of training techniques depending on the situation, the nature of the person being helped and the specific challenge. At times he listened to people carefully and without giving much overt direction, but on other occasions he taught decisively. He encouraged and supported but he also confronted and challenged. He accepted people who were sinful and needy, but he also demanded repentance, obedience and action.
Basic to Jesus’ style of helping, however, was his personality. In his teaching, caring and training he demonstrated those traits, attitudes and values which made him effective as a people helper and which serve as a model for us. Jesus was absolutely honest, deeply compassionate, highly sensitive and spiritually mature. He was committed to serving his heavenly Father and his fellow human beings (in that order), prepared for his work through frequent periods of prayer and meditations, was deeply familiar with Scripture, and sought to help needy persons turn to him where they could find ultimate peace, hope and security (a better “Quality of Life).
Jesus often helped people through sermons but he also debated skeptics, challenged individuals, healed the sick, talked with the needy, encouraged the downhearted and modeled a godly life style. In his contacts with people, he shared examples taken from real-life situations and he sought constantly to stimulate others to think and act in accordance with divine principles. Apparently he believed that some people need an understanding trainer to listen, comfort and care before they can learn to live life better through confrontation, challenge, advice-giving or public preaching.
According to the Bible, Christians are to teach all that Christ commanded and taught us. This surely includes doctrines about God, Lordship, salvation, spiritual growth, prayer, the church, the future, angels, demons and how to have a better “Quality of Life”. As a example, Hesus also taught about marriage, parent-child interactions, obedience, race relations, and freedom for both women and men. And he taught about personal issues such as sex, anxiety, fear, loneliness, doubt, pride, sin and discouragement.
All of these are issues which bring people for training on how to deal with them. When Jesus dealt with such people he frequently listened to the inquirers and accepted them before stimulating them to think or act differently. (training). At times he told people what to do but he also led people (leadership) to resolve their problems by skillful and divinely guided questioning. Thomas was helped with his doubts when Jesus showed the evidence; Peter apparently learned best from reflecting (with Jesus) on his mistakes; Mary of Bethany learned by listening; and Judas didn’t seem to learn at all.
Teaching all that Christ taught, therefore, includes instruction in doctrine, but it also includes helping people to get along better with God, with others, and with themselves. There are issues which concern almost everyone. Some learn from lectures, sermons or readings; others learn from personal Bible study or from small group discussion; still others learn from formal or informal lifestyle training; and perhaps most of us have learned from some combination of the above.
At the core of all true Christian helping, private or public, is the influence of the Holy Spirit. He is described as a comforter or helper who teaches “all things,” reminds us of Christ’s sayings, convicts people of sin, and guides us into all truth. Through prayer, meditation on the Scriptures and deliberate daily commitment to Christ, the Christian leader-trainer makes himself or herself available as an instrument through whom the Holy Spirit may work to comfort, help, teach, convict, or guide another human being to a better Quality of Life. This should be the goal of every believer – pastor or leader, professional “Lifestyle Trainer” or a lay minister: to be used by the Holy Spirit to touch lives, to change them, and to bring them toward spiritual maturity (following God’s plan for them).
- Come share in this love. Let’s be Christian leaders. (georgehach.wordpress.com)